Rabwah: an oasis of tranquility amidst raging storms

The Friday Times: by Tariq Bashir: A part of the city caught fire or, more probably, was set on fire and under cover of the fire, a mob started targeting a religious minority killing a few big names of the community. Terrified of impending death at the hands of the baying crowd, the remainder took refuge in a building where the ruler was under a legal obligation to protect their lives only to be butchered on coming out even though they had been promised a pardon if they renounced their faith. 150 people died but the perpetrators were only punished lightly with fines; their biggest protector being the fact that they all belonged to the majority religion of the land. In case you are wondering, no, the incident didn’t take place in Lahore on 28 May 2010 against Ahmadis although the murderous human instincts usually reserved for religious/ethnic minorities, almost similar modus operandi and chillingly identical sequence of events with minor changes remain the same almost a millennium later.

The above refers to the infamous Clifford’s Tower massacre of Jews, one of the fiercest and racist pre-expulsion pogroms in medieval York, England in March 1190 which took place a mere six months after the coronation of King Richard I. Try to change the names, location year and especially the eventual rap-on-the-knuckles punishment for the perpetrators from York in 1190 to almost a thousand years later in Lahore in 2010, you will find overwhelming similarities in both incidents extremely disturbing. That’s not all, identical public opinions , in both medieval England and 21st century Pakistan regarding minorities when they are invariably blamed for being at fault when persecuted is chillingly shocking. Emotional scars are seldom healed especially when the victim is a whole group of people. Human history is replete with such mob killings and the apparent “crime” for attracting such gruesome mass punishment, incidentally, has often been their membership of a certain religion or ethnic group.

Perched on the unenviable position of the most oppressed religious minority in Pakistan by far the Ahmadis of Pakistan have been bearing the brunt of the indigenous clergy’s venom hell bent upon decimating them if they refuse to renounce their faith for almost six decades. A visit to Rabwah in order to get a perspective on things was a must. After picking up my contact, Imran from Chiniot, a small town only a few kilometers apart from Rabwah on the main Faisalabad-Sargodha highway, it was time to enter the leafy hamlet.


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